Tackling climate change

24 Oct 2019

A recent BBC report into the UK’s response to climate change, written by business editor, Simon Jack, makes interesting reading. Government targets to cut carbon emission to zero by 2050 require immediate and strong action from today.

On a practical level, Jacks states: "To get to zero by 2050 will affect what we eat, what we buy, how we travel and how we heat our homes."

Blow wind blow

The rise of wind power, both offshore and onshore has been key in recent emissions reductions and it’s impressive. There are now 10,000 turbines across the UK; 80% land-based and the remainder out at sea. In May this year, Britain ran for just over a week on renewable energy with wind power providing the significant proportion of electricity we require.

The Nuclear option

Nuclear power has always been contentious as it is perceived by both governments and the public as risky - in different ways. In recent years, nuclear projects have been beset by timetable and budget overruns and the public has real concerns about safety. As technologies improve and the demand for greener electricity grows, it’s likely that the nuclear industry will play a role in our energy future. 

Change is coming

Household and domestic energy use and private cars account for 48% of the UK’s energy consumption and are therefore key targets in planning our carbon neutral future.

Jack’s report states: "One of the things that almost everyone agrees on is that de-carbonising the power supply will need a mix of technologies. Wind, solar, biomass, nuclear, hydro will all play their part - as will increased storage and a smarter energy grid that matches demand and supply more efficiently."

In the meantime, there are millions of homes to heat, the vast majority of which use gas as their source of fuel. Figures show that 85% of homes with central heating are connected to the gas grid. Changing to a new, cleaner alternative such as hydrogen is daunting, but as Jim Watson, Director or UK Energy Research Centre says in Jack’s report, we’ve done it before:

"The interesting comparison to make is if you go back in history to the 60's and 70's in the UK. We underwent another heating transformation from what was called then town gas from coal to natural gas."

Gas v Hydrogen

Trials for the introduction of Hydrogen to our heating systems are looking promising and it’s probably the most realistic option if we’re looking for a replacement for gas. Much of the existing infrastructure can be utilised for distribution and delivery to homes and it’s believed that boilers will need minor adjustment to use the new fuel.

The costs of overhauling systems will be considerable and the phase out of gas is going to take a long time. We are going to need well qualified gas engineers over the decades to come, to help maintain existing gas systems and ensure that they are running as efficiently as possible. Crucially, gas installers will be best placed to upskill into Hydrogen when the time comes.

Training to be a gas engineer today shouldn’t be seen as a waste of time but an investment towards the future, Our Managed Learning Programme (MLP) equips learners with the expertise to help look after our existing gas network and a range of transferable skills for life. To find out more about LCL Awards’ Gas qualifications and MLP, please click here 

Air Source Heat Pumps

Another heating source, becoming more widely used, in new-builds particularly, are Air Source Heat Pumps. These are seen to be three times more efficient than carbon-based alternatives and as long as zero-carbon electricity is used to power them, they produce no CO2 emissions at all. Electrical and gas engineers can up-skill by taking bolt-on qualifications to enhance their portfolio. Click here for details of our renewable qualifications.

The road ahead

A rapid rise in the numbers of electric vehicles and hybrids on the roads constitutes a positive move towards our zero emissions target, but as these green vehicles currently account for less than 1% of all vehicles on the road we’ve a way to go. The government has announced its intention to ban the sale of pertrol and diesel cars by 2040 and Ford recently said it would be producing more EVs than conventional cars by 2022.

Electrical qualifications in the EV sector will be in demand if we’re to provide the necessary charging network. We’ve launched a brand new EV charging qualification, click here for more information. 

Climate change is not something we can shy away from. It is clearly a huge issue we all have to face and as educators we have the opportunity to help train the engineers of the future to deal with the years to come. To build a confident and adaptable work force, ready for the road ahead. If you’d like to discuss your centre’s future and the qualifications you could offer, please get in touch.

To read Simon Jack’s report on climate change, ‘The Road to Clean Energy’ in full, click here